By Sarah George
Senior Lecturer Chinese Medicine
Today in Australia, women are increasingly turning to Chinese medicine to enhance their fertility, for good reason.
Chinese Medicine has a long history of assisting women with reproductive health problems. For around 2000 years, acupuncture was used to treat women for a variety of gynaecological and obstetric conditions, this included the women of wealthy, powerful households who were famously needled only on the points of their legs and arms, preserving their privacy. There is classical Chinese herbal medical literature dedicated to problems of pregnancy, childbirth and menstruation.
Chinese medicine offers couples wishing to conceive a child holistic and individualised treatment. A practitioner will assess each partner on their reproductive health but also their general health including their sleep quality, digestion, body pains and mental health. The practitioner will observe the patient’s tongue, then palpate their pulse and abdomen to further understand how the patient may have a health imbalance that impacts on their fertility. An individual diagnosis is made accompanied with a treatment plan tailored to bring the best result for the patient. This means that the treatment for one person may vary greatly from another.
Research is beginning to highlight the role of the health and diet of both partners prior to conception on the future health of the child. This idea has long been held in Chinese medicine theory. A Chinese medicine practitioner can assist future parents to improve their health prior to conceiving.
Some women may have been diagnosed with infertility or subfertility. This may include disorders such as endometriosis, ovulation problems including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), amenorrhoea (no period for at least three months), blocked fallopian tubes or reduced egg quality or reserve (taken as a controversial blood test known as AMH). Some of these conditions may be improved (eg. PCOS to enhance regular ovulation) through Chinese medicine, others such as blocked fallopian tubes may require western medical treatment. Often, Chinese medicine be used together with western medicine for improved results. It is important that your western medicine doctor and Chinese medicine practitioner are aware of all treatments that you are undertaking.
Sometimes a couple may not have been able to conceive but also have not been given a medical diagnosis for their infertility. These patients are often well assisted with Chinese medicine and its holistic approach to balancing health and improving functional, rather than structural, problems.
It’s important not to overlook men in fertility treatment. Male factor infertility accounts for around a third of infertility in couples. Sperm count, motility (movement) and morphology (shape) can be assessed via a simple semen analysis. Your Chinese medicine practitioner may use the laboratory results to tailor their treatment. Chinese medicine has shown some promising results into improving sperm quality.
For couples who are using assisted reproductive technologies (ART), including in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), acupuncture has shown promising results as a complementary therapy. Acupuncture may improve blood flow to reproductive organs and aid healthy hormonal function, as well as assisting women undergoing IVF with stress reduction and supportive care during what can be an incredibly anxious time.
When a woman is pregnant, acupuncture may assist her in a myriad of ways including relief from morning sickness and pelvic and back pain. Chinese medicine also has techniques for babies presenting as breach and in the lead up to birth.This article provides general information and is not intended to constitute advice. All care is taken to ensure information is accurate and relevant. Please see your Practitioner for health treatments and advice.